Pioneers Third Period Meltdown Enables UMD to Thump DU, 4-1

The Denver Pioneers became mentally unglued in the third period of an otherwise tight game, allowing the two-time defending NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs to score a pair of unanswered goals to blow open a 2-1 game, en-route to a 4-1 victory over the Pioneers on Saturday, Dec. 12 at Omaha’s Baxter Arena.

The UMD victory marked the seventh consecutive Bulldog win over Denver, stretching back to February of 2019, and stopped Denver’s two-game winning streak in NCHC play. With the loss, DU slipped to fifth place in the NCHC at 2-4-0-1. The Bulldogs remained undefeated and in first place at 5-0-1.

The turning point of the game came when UMD was ahead of Denver 2-1 early in the third period in what had been a tight, evenly-played game. DU’s blown defensive coverage allowed the Bulldogs to walk in 2-on-1 on DU goalie Magnus Chrona just 1:32 into the period, as UMD’s Tanner Laderoute wheeled and fired a behind-the-back pass to a streaking Jesse Jacques, who stopped the pass, then chipped his 10 foot shot past a sliding Chrona to extend the UMD lead to 3-1 for the ‘Dawgs, giving UMD full control of the game.

With the game quickly slipping away from DU and a Pioneer comeback effort needing to be mounted, DU defenseman Kyle Mayhew destroyed DU’s comeback chances when he took an ill-advised, textbook five-minute major checking-from-behind penalty on UMD’ Kobe Roth at 3:21 of the third.  That long penalty kill would enable the fourth UMD (insurance) goal on the power-play when Cole Koepke blasted his slapshot past Chrona to end any last hope of a DU comeback at the 6:58 mark of the third.  DU also had to play a full two minutes of that Mayhew major at 5-on-3 after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from DU coach David Carle on the DU bench at 5:44, further tiring out the DU penalty killers, which really helped UMD at a time where DU could ill-afford it.

“We felt like we hand delivered them the third goal on an uncharacteristic play,” said DU coach David Carle after the loss and referring to the blown DU coverage on Jacques’ goal to send UMD up 3-1.  “Obviously the five-minute major and myself taking a bench minor to go onto the five-on-three (penalty kill) for a full 2:00 [hurt us]. We’re all responsible starting with myself of letting our emotions get too much of us and being undisciplined. Ultimately, the result was what it was after the implosion that took place in the first 8-10 minutes of the third (period).”

On the other hand, UMD coach Scott Sandelin lauded his own team’s consistency as the key to the win. “We had more consistency from start to finish,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin.  “Denver is a team that can outnumber you and they do the little things right…when we have consistency, we have a better chance to win.”

DU could only manage a singular goal on this day, when freshman Connor Caponi scored his first collegiate goal at 8:52 of the second period on a beauty of a shot, going bar-down on a 15-foot power-play one-timer on UMD’s Ryan Fanti, converting a great cross-ice pass from McKade Webster, who had caught UMD napping, with Bo Hanson adding the second DU assist to tie the game at 1-1 in the second.

The Bulldogs had taken a 2-1 lead early in the second period, when UMD’s Koby Bender, uncovered in the crease by a puck-watching DU defense, buried a rebound of Hunter Lellig’s point shot into the open net next to Chrona.  While Chrona had made the initial save on Lellig’s blast, he should probably have covered that rebound, which bounced right to the waiting Bender.

UMD had scored the game’s first goal on a first-period power-play rush when Jackson Cates beat Chrona through the low five-hole after a nice pass from Cates’ brother, Noah, to spring Jackson into the DU zone just 5:32 into the contest.

DU next faces resurgent Western Michigan on Tuesday, December 15 at 2:35 PM MT.

Postgame Press Conference


Top photo credit: Mark Kuhlmann, NCHC

3 thoughts on “Pioneers Third Period Meltdown Enables UMD to Thump DU, 4-1”

  1. Just when you think this DU team was turning the corner, the mental “implosion” (Carle’s words) of this game comes back to haunt them badly today against a better UMD team. It was awful to watch…

    DU’s implosion aside, there is a reason UMD has gone seven games unbeaten since losing to Denver and won the last two national titles, and that reason is mental toughness. They have it when the game is on the line.

    If I am David Carle, here’s what I would do to shake things up and install more mental toughness on his team.

    1) Bench Chrona. Half the goals he gave up today were not his fault, but DU needs better goaltending than the team is getting right now. Chrona is struggling at under .900 saves percentage and It’s time to play Kaczperski. Magnus needs to get mentally tougher to earn his starting role back, and the team will play with more mental toughness once they believe they will get good goaltending. DU hasn’t had sub 900 goaltending in a long time, and they need someone to step up.

    2) Bench Mayhew for at least a game. I know he didn’t mean to take the 5 minute major today, but it was a terribly dumb thing to do at a critical time in the game and that stupidity ended up crushing any hope of a comeback. Carle needs to send a message to the rest of the team that dumb penalties at critical time have serious consequences. Control what is controllable, and get the discipline back on this team.

    3) Perhaps it’s time that everybody ‘bag skates’ for the next practice. With a few days off, the next practice should have no pucks or sticks. Just skating. And Carle should skate right with his boys for taking an unsportmanlike bench penalty. He cannot let his emotions hurt the team, and skating with the guys would show them that he is not above his own transgression. I think this would also bring the guys closer together…

  2. I settled into my chair this morning, pumped to watch a Saturday matinee DU game. I felt very optimistic the Pios would find a way to win this one and get to the .500 mark. The first two periods didn’t disappointment–it was a compelling and exciting game through 2. Then the wheels fell off. What a disappointment. DU was doomed by a couple of ill-timed and moronic penalties, a lack of composure, and once again, a lack of execution in the 3rd period. Very frustrating. Duluth is an elite team and if you don’t play a clean hockey game against them, you’re headed for an ass-whipping.

    Through 6 games, this team is an enigma. I hate to pile on Chrona, but it starts with him. He simply has to be better. If the Pios don’t get better between the pipes, it’s going to be a tough year.

  3. I think UMD is a great team, very disciplined and they are starting to get in DU’s heads. DU seemed to be skating ‘tight’ as the game progressed and missed some grade ‘A’ scoring chances. Lots of young guys on DU but you don’t want them to get used to losses to the Bulldogs. Fortunately, a lot of the season left to pick it up.

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